January 21, 2109. First Period. Global Studies. Publius Maximus High School.
The bell rings. Eleventh graders rush into class to beat the second chime. Tommy crosses the door’s threshold as he hears the next clang. Mr. Bobama’s head jerks up from his desk, his steely eyes leering ferociously at the tardy boy.
“My foot was in the door,” refutes the ever defiant Tommy.
Mr. Bobama merely shakes his head, lifts his red stylus and places another checkmark in a long line of checkmarks by the name on the electronic class roster. Attempting to magnify the day’s pageantry, he gloriously rises with outstretched arms, one hand holding his IPad, the other palm opened heavenward.
“Welcome!” he begins brightly. “I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s Centennial Celebration of our nation’s founding!” The apathetic heads don’t respond. He notices his mouth beginning to frown, but quickly recovers his plastic smile.
“C’mon class,” speaks the faux-cool educator. “Don’t let wintry weather dampen your spirits. These grey skies are gonna clear up! Yesterday was January 20, 2109 – our nation’s 100th birthday – and our nation is nothing but Hope!”
Tommy stealthily sneers a sarcastic smirk, drawing Mr. Bobama’s suspicious attention, but revealing nothing for the pedagogue to confirm that suspicion save Ricky’s snicker.
“Ricky, can you find anything humorous about our country’s motto ‘Hope?’” asks the stern Mr. Bobama.
Lacking discipline, Ricky blurts, “Yes I can!” The class barely contains a restrained laugh.
Mr. Bobama, tapping his touchpad, angrily replies, “Clearly, Richard doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
The PA system interrupts. “Richard Pieta, please report to the Principal immediately. Deposit your Personal Jump Drive at the Compliance Officer’s desk.”
The class hushes into abrupt silence. Ricky bows his head, gathers his books and forlornly walks out.
“Excellent,” smiles Mr. Bobama. “Let that be an example to the rest of you. You’re here to learn, not to offer your individual comments. It’s appropriate on this day after Dependence Day we finish our chapter on ‘Legacy of Empire’ with the lessons learned from history’s shortest lived empire. Can someone name this empire?”
“The American Republic,” pertly answers Hilary.
“Very good,” Mr. Bobama smiles broadly. “You see what earnest studies can do for you, class? Why, I remember when this young lady began the year, she seemed destined to become…” he searches for the right metaphor “… another Ricky! Now, she listens well, doing exactly as instructed. You’d all be wise to follow her lead.”
Tommy clears his throat loudly.
“Tommy?” snaps the instructor.
Tommy shrugs with innocent wide eyes. The boy’s antics aside, the teacher espies two students exchanging a note.
“Let’s share that with the class!” The public employee grabs the note, discovering a crudely drawn picture of a monkey tugging a leashed smiling pink puppy. “Who drew this sexist cartoon?” Mr. Bobama inspects as all students – except Tommy – avert their eyes. The teacher’s gaze finally falls on the note passer.
“I’m sorry,” pleads Murdock. “I didn’t draw it, but I’ll take responsibility for passing it.”
Mr. Bobama relaxes, returning to the front of the room. No one sees him press his IPad. Moments later, the PA system booms, “Murdock Post, please report to the Principal immediately. Deposit your Personal Jump Drive at the Compliance Officer’s desk.”
The class seems less concerned as Murdock bows his head, gathers his books and forlornly walks out.
The empowered teacher restarts the lesson. “Hopefully we’ll have no further disruptions. Who knows why the American Republic failed?”
Hilary’s hand immediately shoots up. “I do! I do! The American Republic failed because the Founders created a religious state.”
This irks Tommy. “Wait a minute. Didn’t their Constitution specifically prohibit state religion?”
Mr. Bobama intercedes. “Tommy can actually read? Too bad he can’t comprehend. The Founders religiously – but incorrectly – believed people desire freedom, despite what history shows. Athenians themselves helped the dictators of Sparta defeat their democratic city-state. Rome once had a Republic, but its citizens created the preferred tyranny of Caesar. The Founders should have recognized this.”
“I thought the Founding Fathers created the Constitution purposely to avoid the fate of Athens and Rome,”
Tommy subtly counters.
“You misunderstand even recent history,” responds Mr. Bobama. “Russia briefly tried freedom, until its citizens, too, realized the comfort of having the one leader. The nations of Europe once flirted with freedom until their people understood the ease of oligarchy.”
“An individual has no rights, just a duty to serve the government?” wonders Tommy.
“Exactly!” Mr. Bobama grins capaciously. “Freedom means nothing if it requires one to work to survive. That’s where the American Republic failed. Look at the evidence – a civil war followed by a series of devastating economic depressions. Why, if not for The One, our nation would never have saved its citizens from that final economic disaster created by America’s Freedom.”
“In the American Republic,” Tommy calculates, “every day people won and lost, succeeded and failed. Poor immigrants could become rich and wealthy families could become bankrupt. Each had an opportunity to pursue Life, Liberty and Happiness in their own way…”
“Precisely,” the lecturer injects. “They relied on private enterprise. And you nailed it on the head – private enterprises can fail. Then what? Where do all the workers go? How do they eat or pay medical bills? By allowing people to earn their own money, the government also permitted citizens to make stupid decisions. History teaches us people can’t make informed decisions. This, ultimately, causes all democracies to fail.”
Tommy muses. “Wait. The Founding Fathers crafted a representative democracy rather than a pure democracy exactly for the reasons you stated. Only later in the Republic did voters elect the President and Senate directly. Perhaps the Founding Fathers were right. Instead, the failure of the Republic came at the hands of the voters themselves.”
Mr. Bobama tries to steer Tommy back. “You’ve got it all wrong! Such heresy on this day after Dependence Day!” The teacher fingers his IPad. “Don’t you see? How could the government afford to support all those unemployed people without taxing those who worked? Like a false idol, ‘The American Dream’ caused the poor to suffer. We cannot rely on the private economy. It always fails. History proves it.”
The PA system bellows, “Thomas Jeffrey, please report to the Principal immediately. Deposit your Personal Jump Drive at the Compliance Officer’s desk.”
The class freezes.
Tommy ignores the voice. “Mr. Bobama, you sure you’re not the one who’s out of touch? Government controlled economies never produce lasting good. Why would private enterprise exist if Government seizes its wealth? Why would anyone risk doing the great when the Government rewards failure and punishes success? The American Republic never failed. The Forces of Dependency conquered the American Republic.”
The class looks for the official response.
“Mr. Jeffrey, I believe you’ve been asked to leave.”
“Mr. Bobama, you’re right. Citizens can and often do make incorrect decisions. When those decisions enslave future generations, you must expect a revolution sooner or later. I will leave, but you won’t go like where I’m going.” Tommy rises tall, back straight, chest out. “I’m going to a tea party!”
The class sits on edge.
Tommy turns to his generation and simply asks, “You comin’?”